British Steel Corp v Cleveland Bridge and Engineering Co Ltd [1984]

British Steel Corp v Cleveland Bridge and Engineering Co Ltd [1984] 1 All ER 504 is a notable English contract law case that revolves around the concept of agreement.

In the case, steel nodes were delivered to the defendants following a letter of intent expressing the intention to purchase. However, at that point, no formal contract had been concluded due to disagreements over the defendants' terms, and negotiations were prolonged. The parties failed to reach an agreement on issues such as progress payments and liability for late delivery. Despite the lack of a finalised contract, the delivered nodes were accepted.

Justice Robert Goff presented three possible alternatives to analyse the situation. Firstly, he considered whether the letter of intent could be deemed an executory contract. However, this option was dismissed since negotiations were still ongoing. Secondly, he explored the idea that the defendants' terms constituted a standing offer accepted by the commencement of the work. However, this was deemed presumptuous. Lastly, Justice Goff settled on the third alternative, suggesting that the best solution was to allow for restitutionary recovery for the value of the work done. This approach focused on acknowledging the benefit received by the defendants at the expense of the claimants.

This case highlights the court's flexibility in finding equitable solutions when faced with complex contract situations where a formal agreement is absent or disputed. The emphasis on restitutionary recovery in this case underscores the court's commitment to ensuring fairness and preventing unjust enrichment in contractual relationships.
Back to blog

UOL Case Bank

Upon joining, you become a valuable UOL student and gain instant access to over 2,100 case summaries. UOL Case Bank is constantly expanding. Speed up your revision with us now.

Subscribe Now

Where are our students from?

Yale University
Council of Europe
Baker Mckenzie 
University of Chicago
Columbia University
New York University
University of Michigan 
University College London (UCL)
London School of Economics (LSE)
King’s College London (KCL)
University of London
University of Manchester
University of Zurich
University of York
Brandeis University
University of Exeter
University of Sheffield
Boston University
University of Washington
University of Leeds
University of Law
Royal Holloway, University of London 
Birkbeck, University of London
SOAS, University of London
University of Kent
University of Hull
Queen’s University Belfast
Toronto Metropolitan University
Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
University of Buckingham

  • Criminal Practice

    Diagrams and Charts

    Our carefully designed diagrams and charts will guide you through complex legal issues.

  • Criminal Law

    Clear and Succinct Definitions

    Key concepts are concisely defined to help you understand legal topics quickly.

  • Property Law

    Statutory Provisions

    Statutory provisions are provided side by side with legal concepts to help you swiftly locate the relevant legislation.

  • Public Law

    Case Summaries

    We have summarised important cases for you so that you don't need to read long and boring cases.

  • Evidence

    Rules and Exceptions

    Rules and exceptions are clearly listed so that you know when a rule applies and when it doesn't.

  • Company Law


    Legal terms and key concepts are explained at the beginning of each chapter to help you learn efficiently.

  • Case Law

    Case law is provided side by side with legal concepts so that you know how legal principles and precedents were established.

  • Law Exam Guide

    Law Essay Guide

    You will learn essential law exam skills and essay writing techniques that are not taught in class.

  • Law Exam Guide

    Problem Question Guide

    We will show you how to answer problem questions step by step to achieve first-class results.

  • Conflict of Laws

    Structured Explanations

    Complex legal concepts are broken down into concise and digestible bullet point explanations.

  • Legal System and Method

    Legal Research

    You will learn legal research techniques with our study guide and become a proficient legal researcher.

  • Jurisprudence and Legal Theory


    All essential concepts, principles, and case law are included so that you can answer exam questions quickly.